The mother of a litter may become ill, develop an infection dangerous to her puppies, have toxic milk or no milk at all, or just be unable to handle so many puppies. In those situations, it is ideal to have a foster mother care for your needy pups. If your veterinarian cannot suggest a foster mother, however, you will have to take over the nursing responsibilities. This includes hand-feeding, cleaning away the urine and feces from especially young pups, and ensuring that the litter stays warm.
Your veterinarian can suggest the most appropriate feeding formula for your litter. Be sure to prepare a fresh formula every day and to store it in the refrigerator. When you are ready to feed it to the puppies, heat it up so it is warm to the touch.
Weigh your puppy on a daily basis not only to be sure that she is maintaining healthy weight gain, but also to figure out how much food is nutritionally sound for her. Also monitor pups’ food intake to determine when you should feed them. If a puppy has a very small appetite or is weak, you may want to feed her less food more frequently. A puppy with a robust appetite, on the other hand, can have larger amounts of food fewer times a day.
Avoid feeding your puppy with an eyedropper as you could unintentionally force milk into her lungs and cause pneumonia. The best feeding container is a bottle: a regular baby bottle, a doll bottle, or a bottle purchased from a pet store or your veterinarian. Before feeding your puppies, be sure your bottle and your hands are clean and that the fluid flows easily. Enlarge the hole on the nipple if necessary by inserting a boiled, sterilized needle into it.
You may want to place the puppy on a table or on your lap, facing forward, when you are ready to feed her. Elevate the puppy slightly by placing your hand or a small towel under her front legs. Gently wedge the nipple of the bottle into the puppy’s mouth and over the tip of the tongue. Hold the bottle at about a forty-five degree angle and allow the formula to run slowly into the puppy’s mouth. The puppy may want to “knead” as she would on her mother’s teat to stimulate its milk production, so allow her front legs to move freely.
Unsuccessful feeding is a danger to a young puppy, especially if she is weak or small. Try dabbing a spot of milk on the puppy’s lips, right at the opening of the mouth. Sometimes this will stimulate a poor appetite. If this method fails, do not force the puppy to eat. Consult your veterinarian, who will feed the puppy by inserting a long tube into her belly. The veterinarian may show you how to do this at home, but it is a delicate procedure and you should be thoroughly familiar with it before you attempt it.
After successful hand-feeding, two important procedures must follow. First, hold the puppy up to your shoulder and pat her back. Burping the puppy much like you would a human baby can release excess air that was swallowed during feeding. After burping, you need to encourage the puppy to go to the bathroom. The canine mother would do this by licking the abdomen and anal area. You should do this by rubbing a cotton ball or towel moistened with warmed water over these areas. You may also use this procedure to clean the puppy, wiping away any milk, urine, or feces that may be on her fur.